I think I may have written on this topic before, but it never hurts to revisit. It’s especially important because we’re going to be adding more curriculum into the mix so we make sure we’re hitting the milestones the state requires.
Where do we start? How about with the basics?
What Is Unschooling?
That’s really an easy answer. Unschooling is child-led learning. Kids learn best through life experiences and following their passion. Unschooling embraces this. Kids are given opportunities to learn, so they learn at their pace, picking up the things that are important in their view.
Now, this can be a scary thing. It means having complete faith that your kid, at some point, will learn to read, even if it looks like they never will. It means trusting your child will some day learn how to write. You have to have believe that your child will eventually pick up enough math skills to get through daily life. Sounds pretty scary, huh?
Some parents are hardcore about this. They never actively “teach” their kids anything, and by that I mean they don’t actually do the job of creating lessons. Lessons happen through life, and the parent provides opportunities. This can be by leaving around cool stuff for the kid to explore and maybe ask about, or this could be by going on adventures to places where new experiences can be had. It’s totally freeform.
That is the parent I used to be. I’d never dream of doing workbooks or curriculum unless my kids asked me to, and they never did. That’s how I wanted to raise all of my kids, and would have, if we’d stayed in the great state of Texas.
How We Homeschool
Here’s where things changed. After having moved to New England, we now have to be able to prove the kids are meeting their grade level. In particular we have to prove they’re on track with reading, writing, and math. There seems to be less concern with making sure the kids are on track with science and social studies because “on grade level” is a lot more fluid of a thing.
Much like other unschool families that face these standards, we’re left to figure out how we’re going to blend these core subjects into our homeschooling curriculum. How we do that is going to vary greatly depending on the kid. Each of the kids has different needs for each age, so making sure we hit all the markers is going to vary.
First of all, I’ve got the kids doing Time 4 Learning. It’s an online program designed to be a supplement to curriculum. We’re also going to be getting a subscription to Starfall, another online program that helps with reading and writing. That’s going to be the core of our “curriculum” so far. That will give the kids all a base level of language arts, math, science, and social studies. Starfall for Sander and Luca also adds reading skills.
While that’s a good basis, we want to make sure there’s no doubt that we’ll be getting through the material the way the state wants us to. This is where actual curriculum will bridge the gap. We’re going to be working with Explode the Code for Luca and Sander, as well as Primary Phonics. For language arts, Beekee and Corde will both be expected to work on a monthly writing sample. This is all portfolio filler, and a good opportunity to write about things they enjoy. We may also look into Spelling U See for all of the kids because their spelling, it is massively horrible!
For math, we’re planning to get into working with Math U See. I’d heard good things about Saxon and it’s manipulatives, but it’s a much higher investment for a program that’s really only supposed to be background to keep the state happy. I’d rather go with simpler and cheaper.
I know, I know! That sounds more like homeschooling than unschooling! What’s the deal? Well, meeting state requirements is what enables us to continue to educate at home, so if we have to make sacrifices in the realm of language arts and math, so be it. Other parents find other ways of getting around it, but I’m not comfortable with that, mostly because if it ever comes to the point where they’re made to pass standardized tests, I’ll have some confidence in their ability to do so.
How We Incorporate Unschooling
Well, that’s pretty much where the line is drawn. Language arts and math are going to be the only things we’re really putting down in curriculum. Everything else will be child-led. If they want to spend the rest of their time playing Minecraft, so be it! If they want to read tons of books, okay by me. If they’re really into comics, that’s cool. We could end up doing crazy science experiments, watching oodles of television, or doing pretty much nothing at all. I know the kids will enjoy the stuff on Time 4 Learning because it’s all based on games, especially the stuff from Science 4 Us. It’s meant to be fun and educational, so not a typical homeschool curriculum.
And over the years I expect I’ll gain the confidence to do less and less formal schooling and trust the kids in their ability to learn on their own more and more. Or we might move to a state with more lax homeschool laws to get away from the stricter standards put on us by the state. That would be ideal.
In the mean time, I’m planning to provide ample opportunities to learn and plenty of things to explore. Our house is full of books on various subjects, though Minecraft seems to be the only thing anyone really cares about. I’m okay with that. We’ll probably watch some documentaries, just for the fun of it. There are so many opportunities to learn out there, and I plan to offer as many to the kids as possible.
So that’s how it’s done, and how we do it. If you’ve got any other questions, please feel free to leave it in the comments. I’m all for adding Q&A as they come my way!